When you think of someone who drinks alcohol once in a while, do you think of a criminal? Probably not. What about someone who smokes marijuana? It’s probably more likely, even though most marijuana user’s only crime is solely the use of marijuana. This is because current U.S. laws make possession of marijuana illegal and I believe these laws are in great need of reform. Let me start off with a brief history of the cannabis plant from which marijuana is derived. Marijuana (then known only as hemp) has been grown in America since 1611. Farmers have been using the fibers to make clothing, paper, rope, lamp oil, and canvas. The first American flag was made from hemp, as well as the first Gutenberg Bible. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp and advocated a hemp-based economy.
It was not until the 1920s that the practice of smoking marijuana became widespread, primarily among Mexican immigrants and African-Americans. It was a common belief that they were inhumane and violent, and that marijuana was the cause of this behavior. This provoked “Reefer Madness” which was a political campaign designed to scare potential marijuana users with grossly exaggerated stories and public hysteria. The American Journal of Medicine went along with it and wrote, “Marijuana users will suddenly turn with murderous violence upon whoever is nearest to them. They will run amuck with a knife, ax, gun, or anything else that is close at hand, and will kill or maim without reason.” Though not as exaggerated today, people are still misinformed about marijuana.
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First of all, most marijuana users are not criminals. They are otherwise law-abiding citizens who work hard and contribute to their communities. They are not dangerous people who need to be locked up. Incarcerating these people actually builds to the problem instead of helping it. Federal anti-marijuana efforts cost taxpayers $30 billion with no change in usage patterns. $2 billion worth of cannabis is being seized and destroyed, 4 million people being arrested and 250,000 being jailed for more than a year. What is this all for? People with no other criminal record are going to jail; money is being wasted for nothing. Marijuana is still readily available and used by a large number of Americans.
If the purpose of the prohibition is to eliminate the use of a substance, then marijuana is a prime example of how prohibition does not work. During the time of 1980 to 1992, overall marijuana use dropped about 24% but drug arrests increased 1,100%. The increase in violent offenders imprisoned during that time was only 50%. Of the people convicted of marijuana possession during that time, 58% had no previous arrest history, 91% were not part of any drug-oriented organizations, and 92% did not even own a gun. With these figures, you can see that most of these people should not be seen as individuals who will endanger our society. Another misconception is that marijuana damages your health. Of course, no drug is safe for everybody, but it is arguably safer than most.
When compared to heroin, cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine, studies have shown that marijuana has the least addictive power and considered least likely to produce withdrawal upon quitting. The only proven risk from cannabis is that it may cause bronchitis when smoked, which is the same with tobacco. However, this risk can be greatly reduced by using a water pipe to smoke less of the herb and to filter out any toxins. The health-conscious can also ingest it by making tea or putting it in food because cannabis has many medical uses such as treating stress, glaucoma, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, nausea, anorexia, depression, migraines, insomnia, and many other common ailments. Marijuana legalization will greatly help the economy. Right now, people who want their cannabis have to buy from a drug dealer. The dealer gets 100% of the profit.
Legalization will bring in billions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Marijuana production can be a huge business and giving the government up to $7 billion dollars in taxes. The new industry will also make other spin-off industries such as coffee houses, gardening equipment, and paraphernalia a profitable venture. It may also contribute to reduced alcohol and hard-drug abuse, and being a regulated trade, it would lead to more studies and safer use. The idea of legalizing marijuana is not totally conclusive, but with these facts and after 63 years of prohibition, we should have learned that marijuana laws do not work and need to be reformed. There are organizations that are starting a movement such as the Cannabis Action Network, NORML, and Legalize. You can also help by writing to political leaders and telling them your viewpoints. We do live in a democracy, right? We are the people, and I personally hope to live to see the legalization of marijuana.
- Gieringer, Dale, Ph.D. “Economics of Cannabis Legalization”. June 1994. “Revenues From Legalization”. NORML. 2 November 2000. <http://www.norml.org/facts/econ_6.shtml>.
- “Hemp Through History”. 3 November 2000. <http://www.ecomall.com/biz/hemp.htm>.
- Stroup, R. Keith, Esq. “Testimony of R. Keith Stroup, Esq. Before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Committee on Government Reform”. 13 July 1999. NORML. 1 November 2000. <http://www.natlnorml.org/recreational/testimony99.shtml>.
- “10 Things Every Parent, Teenager & Teacher Should Know About Marijuana”. Cannabis Action Network. 2 November 2000. <http://www.cannabisaction.net/10things.htm>.
- Wikman, Eric. “Prohibition and Marijuana: History Does Repeat”. Ed. Lindemann, Jon. November 1995. 2 November 2000. <http://www.wikman.com/eric/marijuana.html>.
- Young, Francis L. “Benefits of Cannabis”. Cannabis Freedom Fund. 2 November 2000. <http://www.freecannabis.org/benefits.htm>.[/i:3d4c190983]